How To Save On Laundry Without Having To Steal Tide Detergent

Tide has become a hot commodity lately. Law enforcement officials from around the nation say there has been an outbreak of thefts of the pricey-but-well-regarded detergent. One guy allegedly stole $25,000 worth of Tide before Minnesota police nabbed him. Why? Tide can be pricey (up to $20 a bottle), and, well, it’s in high demand. But how can you save on detergent without resorting to buying black-market-Tide?

1) Buy Tide 2X Ultra for Cold Water. This tip will only work if you do your laundry at home, of course, but if you do, you can save $60 per year on heating costs by washing your duds in cold water. In addition to being a money saver, this detergent received the top rating in CR’s 2010 tests. It even beat non-cold water formulas.

2) Don’t use too much.You may think you aren’t wasting detergent, but it’s very likely that you are the victim of a confusing cap. Many people use twice the recommended amount, says Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute, a trade group that includes detergent manufacturers. That could be due to poor cap design, a “more is better” philosophy, misreading the caps’ lines, or simply not reading directions. Using too much detergent not only wastes money but also can prolong the rinse cycle: Some washers keep going when the water is too sudsy.

3) Shop online or use coupons. Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program can have great deals and is super convenient. If you like going to the store, Tide’s manufacturer, P&G has an entire website dedicated to Tide and, if you’re willing to sign up for a newsletter, they’ll send you coupons. How on earth there could be enough news about Tide to warrant a newsletter is beyond us. If you’re looking to cash in on the fact that Tide is cool enough to steal now, the site even has some faux vintage “Tide” t-shirts you can buy (and $4 from the sale of each tee goes to help disaster victims.)

4) If you have a HE washer, try Gain. Ok, this isn’t advice about how to save on Tide. You caught us. Tide costs about $0.23 per load, but Gain Original Fresh HE , which performed well in Consumer Reports’* 2010 detergent ratings, cost only $0.06. Hey, it’s better than a life of crime, right?

*Consumerist is published by Consumer Reports.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Marlin says:

    Idea 4 should be number 1.

    Stop using over priced tide.

    • PaulR says:

      Stop using any product that is advertised.

      Someone has to pay for those ads.

    • microcars says:

      But I always get mine for half price from that guy at the Flea market.

    • MaxMiami says:

      But Tide is always on sale or has coupons, and IMO, the powder version cleans clothes better than other brands.

      You can get the 68 load 2x ultra box at Target for $12 this week ($.18/load), with a $5 Target gift card with the purchase of 2. Plus there was a $5 coupon in last week’s paper.

      2 boxes (136 loads) = $24
      Less 2 x $5 off coupons = -$10
      Less Target giftcard = -$5
      Net price before tax = $9 or $.066/load

      Where does CR shop for detergent that it’s paying $0.23/load

  2. SecretShopper: pours out a lil' liquor for the homies Wasp & Otter says:

    Wow we got a Saturday Meg Marco post what’s next a Bigfoot sighting? I’ve been using #’s 2 & 4 with much success for a while now, Gain & All FTW, Tide costs way too much for me

    • PHRoG says:

      I snagged the big jugs of Gain at Big Lots last month on clearance for $6/jug. I bought all 8…sorry everyone!

    • Cat says:

      Wow we got a Saturday Meg Marco post what’s next a Bigfoot sighting?

      I am so glad to see a Meg post. And on a Saturday, too!

      I saw the post, and thought it was another partial pilfering of a list, and then I looked closer: No links to another list, and the Meg Marco tag line.

      In true consumerist fashion, Meg makes her own lists at home.

  3. Auron says:

    The guy in Minnesota admitted to stealing $25k worth of Tide in court, and has been sentenced to 90 days and 5 years of probation, there is no doubt that he stole it.

    • planetoid says:

      “West St. Paul police said it was unclear whether Costanzo was selling the detergent.” That’s because they saw him and realized he would need an accomplice.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      He should have relabled it as Boost.

  4. Derv says:

    Try Wisk. I switched, and it ends up being $5-7 cheaper at SAMs Club and works better (at least according to your CR overlords)

  5. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    Like #4…we usually buy whatever the huge jug is that’s frequently on sale at Menard’s for like $5.

    Can’t tell any difference in the quality of the wash. No point in paying a premium for this stuff.

  6. beachmouse says:

    I’ve got sensitive skin issues, and Tide is the only laundry soap that doesn’t make me break out in a rash. Wish I could get away with something cheaper, but it just doesn’t work for me.

    • Not Given says:

      DH and DS have a history of breaking out that cleared up when I switched detergents. The first time we switched soap and deodorant first but it didn’t help. The second time I immediately switched to a detergent that was fragrance and dye free. Now I’m using a store brand without dyes or fragrance.

    • Marlin says:

      Try ALL free and clear. Used that after my son was born and never had an issue with any skin problems.

    • Smultronstallet says:

      Try using a hypoallergenic variety of a less expensive brand. I also have very sensitive skin, and have had no skin problems since I started using Purex Free & Clear.

  7. sprybuzzard says:

    How about make your own with the thousands of recipes available online?

    • ninepeoplesfavorite says:

      I started doing this last year in an effort to reduce my grocery bills a little. For less than $15 worth of ingredients, I’ve made gallons of detergent — simple and easy: Arm & Hammer Washing Powder, Laundry Soap (like Fels Naptha), Borax and hot water. The most expensive part of the purchase was the 5 gallon bucket to put the detergent in. The soap and washing powder last for more than one batch of detergent. The Borax is our easy (and cheap) substitute for Oxy Clean powder, so we use more of that than the other stuff.

      Can’t believe I hadn’t done this years ago. Plus it makes the house smell beautiful when you make it.

      We do a lot of laundry, and I figured it saves us at least $100/year in detergent costs, especially since we’ve replaced detergent, stain cleaner, and “booster” with three simple, store-bought ingredients.

      I did have trouble finding washing powder and the laundry soap I like in my grocery or hardware store, so I did buy them online. Borax is about the only thing either of my local grocery/hardware stores carry. But it really couldn’t have been simpler to make.

    • Nunov Yerbizness says:

      1. ROFL, you’re kidding, right? At my job, I make the equivalent of about $54 per hour. It is possible to get to a point here where you are actually costing yourself much more in the time you spend doing nineteenth-century crap like this than you are ever saving by making your household supplies yourself. The “I make my own” crowd probably doesn’t factor in that their time is valuable and adds significantly to the cost-per-use of whatever it is they’re brewing at home.

      2. Because powdered detergent is not recommended for septic systems.

      3. Because Costco’s house-brand Kirkland HE detergent costs about $0.16 per load and cleans perfectly well, and in the 110-load size, I only have to buy detergent once a year, so there are fewer shopping trips…also worth considering in the cost-per-use figure.

  8. Frankz says:

    The “widespread” or “outbreak” of Tide thefts was debunked:
    “Police say reports of nationwide spike in Tide thefts doesn’t wash:”

    “Police and retailers are pushing back against a report claiming that theft of Tide laundry detergent is on the rise nationwide and that some cities are devising special task forces to crack down on the alleged phenomenon.” ….

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      You mean to tell me that a “journalist” would swallow a fairy tale hook-line-and-sinker and decide to write about it without checking its veracity? Perish the thought!

      Next you’ll be telling me that journalists show significant bias toward “facts” that support their beliefs!

    • evilpete says:

      Wow, that story gave Tide a lot of free publicity

  9. chiieddy says:

    I use All Ultra Free & Clear in my HE washer at about $.07/load from BJs. That’s the non-coupon price. I usually buy it at $.05/load with a coupon.

  10. Clyde Barrow says:

    Meh. I’ve tried all the other brands and nothing is better for clothes than Tide. Hands down the best and you can plainly see my clothes look much better especially for my dress slacks and shirts that I wear for work. If I use any other brand, they look dingy and not as ‘new’ and do not come out wrinkle free.

    • Maltboy wanders aimlessly through the Uncanny Valley says:

      This. I’ve done the drill too. Tide works best.

    • redstapler says:

      Ugh, I hate the smell of tide with a passion. Being near people who use it too soon after laundry day irritates me. It just smells bad and doesn’t get clothes any cleaner. I use All free and clear which I love.

  11. IGetsAnOpinion says:

    I have to use the kind of detergent that is free of dyes and perfumes, and that doesn’t give me many choices. I usually use All, but last time I went shopping the Tide version was actually cheaper. And it really would have been if someone else in the house who did laundry read the darn cap and filled it only to the 1 or 2 instead of the whole darn thing. 64 loads disappeared quickly.

  12. Sarek says:

    I’m confused. With one hand they tell us we should wash linens in hot water to kill dust mites & stuff. With the other, they tell us we should wash in cold water and save energy.

    To quote the old commercial, what’s a mother to do?

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I wash white stuff in hot water with Tide w/Bleach. Towels, underwear, socks, etc. get warm water. I wash jeans, shirts, PJ’s, my work clothes, and that type of stuff in cold water. I’d feel funny about washing dirty underwear, socks, towels, in cold water.

      • clickable says:

        Bleach is not good for fibers over the long term. One alternative method you might want to try would be to use non-bleach detergent, stop the wash cycle in middle, and let the clothes soak for as long a time as is convenient.

        I usually let the washer fill with water + detergent, add the laundry, let it run for a couple of minutes so all the clothes get good and agitated, then suspend the washing cycle and just let them soak till I remember to let the cycle continue.

        To get out dinginess and make everything – especially whites – just pop, I use a very old-fashioned solution, which I’m always afraid will disappear from store shelves entirely. AFAIK, it is called “blueing,” or at least that’s what I always called it. It is a very potently blue liquid, which I first mix with some water to dilute, then add to the washer before adding the clothes. The blue brightens whites and just brightens everything, really – without weakening the fabric fibers like bleach. I use it in white and mixed loads.

        The one I use is called Bluette, it’s as cheap as dirt, and I fervently hope my local market will keep stocking it despite all the flashier brands competing for shelf space. But I just googled and they do have an online presence so you may be able to find it in your area. It seems there is also a new “designer” blueing product, from the Mrs. Stewart’s brand of household products. Maybe that is more widely distributed.

        I also use Oxyclean-type products occasionally when called for, but I think the most effective thing I do that gets everything clean without bleach is the soaking, and of course, that costs nothing at all, just time.

    • Yomiko says:

      I’m not sure about dust mites, but when I had bed bugs, the research I did told me that the drier was hot enough to kill the bugs. (Things I couldn’t dry on hot, I sent to dry cleaning to kill the bugs.) Maybe if you wash cold/dry hot, it will give you the best of both worlds.

      I do get your point about the mixed message, though.

    • Skeptic says:

      They could start by removing the talking sock puppets from their hands.

      Gain smells like bubblegum. Yechh!

  13. Bativac says:

    There seem to be a preponderance of detergent-related posts on this blog lately. Also maybe they should change the name to “The ConsumerLIST,” amirite?

    Obligatory on topic comment: I use unscented Gain because I seem to be allergic to all other detergents.

    • raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

      I have an allergy to laundry detergent; Tide is the brand mom used to get me acclimated, and I get rashes on other brands. :(

  14. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I use Tide with Bleach powder for whites, and liquid regular scent Tide for my work clothes only. I buy it on sale and hopefully with a coupon. Everything else gets washed in Purex, A & H, Era, Whisk, or whatever happens to be on sale with a coupon. I buy Gain Tropical scent when I can get it cheap & it’s used for work clothes only as well.

    Recently my local grocery store discontinued the concentrated powdered Tide with Febreeze – so it was marked down from $15.99 to $8.00, and I snatched up two because I had two $2 coupons. Score!

  15. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    We’ve been using Cheer with good results. A bit less expensive, and works well.

  16. PHRoG says:

    *hugz* Nice to see ya Meg! Thanks for the Saturday post…I missed these. ;)

  17. SporadicBlah says:

    I wash EVERYTHING in cold water. And I usually only use a quarter of the recommended amount of detergent. Ive been cleaning my laundry like that for more than 20 years and they come out perfectly clean using less soap. It is my opinion that the detergent companies tell you to use more than you need so they can sell more.

  18. SporadicBlah says:

    Here is another good laundry tip if you use bleach. For around $4 you can get a bag of pool shock (without herbicides). Mix 1tsp with a gallon of water to make 1 gallon of bleach solution. One bag makes over 100 gallons of bleach and you’ve only spent $4.

  19. EarthAngel says:

    The recipe calls for Fels-Naptha, but you can use Ivory bars for sensitive skin. One person microwaved the Ivory bar and then put it in her food processor.

  20. gman863 says:

    #5 – Save your tide coupons and stock up when you find a deal.

    50-ounce bottles of tide are normally about $7.50/each A few weeks ago, H-E-B had in-store coupons, a sale price and a promotion that offered a $10 H-E-B gift card good on the next visit if you purchased $30 of P&G products.

    I picked up six bottles – factoring in the $10 gift card, they cost me a little over $3.25 each.

    I guess they cut out the crackhead middleman and passed the savings on to me.

  21. Browsing says:

    Call me crazy but Tide I don’t think was ever seen in my parents laundry room, Dynamo all the way in terms of liquid (I remember a few times breaking out in rashes in freshly laundered clothes, Mom did you buy something different…yeah..ERA, Shoprite, etc….sadly highly sensitive) In Europe I do the unscented powder ones and haven’t had too much of a problem

  22. quail says:

    Couple of things on saving money with any laundry detergent:

    1) read the label. Just because the scoop or the cap is of a certain size doesn’t mean you fill it up to the rim. You adjust what you use depending on the quality of your water and how soiled the clothing is. Most of the time 1/4 to 1/2 a cap is all that you need.

    And 2) every now and again you should wash your clothes without detergent. Unless you’re good & miserly with the soap, your clothing (especially towels & jeans) will hold onto a certain amount of residue that wasn’t rinsed away. Once or twice a year try washing them but withold the detergent. During the wash cycle you’ll be amazed at how soapy the water is without you putting anything in.

  23. cbutler says:

    As a single guy here is my process for detergent. 1. Select a general area of detergents 2. Make sure it does t reek of Fragrance. 3. Make sure it does colors and white. 4. Grab one and go about day. I already have too much organization in my life. I don’t need to sit down and figure out detergents. Lol

  24. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    1) Make your own laundry detergent. Easy and very effective “recipes” are available via your friend google. I make a large batch (5 gallons) once a year and keep it in the basement. If you or your spouse is handy have them add a spigot. Put into an old detergent container. Use as normal. A year supply of detergent (we are a family of three) costs just under $50. FOR A YEAR. Works great and there are no weird “fresh scents”.

    2) Underwear, towels, sheets, and “soiled” (for example kids clothing after a day of play in the yard/woods or gardening clothing) should always be washed in the hottest water possible. Bacteria, fungus, and irritating plant oils can survive cold washes. It is false frugality if your cold water washes get your family infected with ringworm or a rash from poison ivy is spread because the water and detergent didn’t dissolve it.

    3) Use a clothesline in the Spring, Summer, and Autumn not a dryer. Hang most clothing to dry inside in the winter. Exceptions are towels, they can take too long to dry and get mildew smelly – requiring another wash, another false frugality. Bonus – if you can hang over heating vents on a rack the drying clothing adds humidity to the dry winter air.

    4) If you do not make your own detergent – Consumer Reports has reported that the measure line in the cap of detergent bottles tells you to add more detergent than you need. Cut the amount in half and then decide if you can reduce the amount further until you reach the correct amount to clean your water.

    Ta Da! How to save $ on laundry.

    • RedOrDead says:

      Do you have any idea how much you were spending on store-bought detergent? I’m currently spending about $50/year on detergent and I don’t have the hassle of making it myself or figuring out how to store it. I’m trying to determine how much money I’d actually be saving and if it’s worth it.

      • Mrs. w/1 child says:

        We are a family of three, with a small child so I do a lot of laundry. We were budgeting $15 a month for detergent, usually if I found a deal I would stock up so I was only using about $10 a month if the cost was spread out. Still that was $120 a year on the low end. *grin* I would say price the ingredients out online for homemade detergent (see if you can get a free bucket off of freecycle or cheap at a tag sale). Then track the cost of store purchased detergent you buy/use in a 3 month period. Don’t forget to include tax in your purchase price, then multiply that amount by 4 to estimate how much you spend in a year. If it is less to buy – one less chore for you!

        You will also have enough ingredients for a full second batch and a few ounces left over for the beginnings of a third batch. Making it only takes about a half hour once a year. We have a large storage area in our building’s basement that is exclusive to us so storage isn’t an issue for us. If I didn’t have a 200 square foot basement it might not be worth it for me to lose the space.

        • caradrake says:

          If you have a Firehouse Subs nearby, you can buy 5 gallon pickle buckets, with lid, for $2. And that money gets donated to your local fire station.

    • aaron8301 says:

      Dry winter air? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

      (I live near Seattle.)

      I like all of your advice, however.

    • crazydavythe1st says:

      That doesn’t seem very economical. When Tide is on sale here, it’s $3.99 for a 50 oz bottle.

      5 gallons = 640 oz = 12.8 bottles of tide. 12.8 bottles of tide @ $3.99/bottle = $51.07

      and that’s for the small bottles of Tide. It would likely be cheaper if I went with larger bottles. and Tide has the fragrance free variety that works great.

      • Mrs. w/1 child says:

        You only need two, maybe three (for very soiled clothing) tablespoons of homemade detergent for a wash, if I remember correctly (and I may not) you use more than that amount when using commercial detergent. We live in Chicago and generic detergent is usually around $5.00 a container (ounces/size vary) plus tax (before coupons). Cook county has one of the highest tax rates. *wry grin*

        Also, you will have enough soda ash (some people call it sal soda) and castille soap (or fels naptha or ivory) left over for another batch of detergent. The initial $50 is to buy 5 lbs. of baking soda (we use it with a little bleach for scrubbing powder for the tub and such as well as cook with it and use it as deodorizer), 32 ounces of liquid castille soap, 5 lbs of soda ash, and the shipping and tax to obtain the ingredients. I also included the approximate price of water and a 5 gallon bucket with a lid (I estimated $3 for the bucket/lid). The bucket would be a one time expense. Due to regional price differences YMMV. Our municipal water cost is very low in Chicago compared to other areas (lake Michigan being a major source of water). For us, we save a lot when I make our detergent.

        Additional savings come from areas that are not easy to measure the amount of savings. For example – once I became a stay at home wife/mother, I found that the less I drove the car running out every few days to buy things the less gas I used (and more $ saved) and staying out of stores as much as possible greatly reduces the urge to impulse shop. So I tend to buy in bulk and precision plan shopping trips to any stores once a month. Again, we have a lot of stores withing walking distance – like walgreens and CVS and Target so if there is a sale or stacking coupon bargain, I put the little in the wagon and walk over and only purchase that one item that I have four coupons for making it free or almost free. On the monthly shopping day I drive I use planned routes and never buy anything not on my master list I have been compiling all month. I use inventory sheets I made in excel to track pantry items and have developed automatic reordering thresholds, same with clothing, bedding, toiletries, etc. A bonus is my child really enjoys the monthly shopping trip and as a result is very well behaved in stores as opposed to feeling like she is getting dragged along. *grin*

        Of course if you work full or part time, you may not have the time after paid employment to maximize your savings. We are lucky in our case that I professionally managed massive high rises (they are almost like mini cities) before the birth of my daughter and my new career “professionally” managing our home. *wink*

  25. FrugalFreak says:

    Stop buying it and price will decrease.

  26. Tim says:

    I use All, mostly out of necessity. I live in an apartment building and I have to go down two floors to do laundry, so using the 3x concentrated All is much easier than any alternative (Method is more concentrated now, but a lot more expensive).

  27. DallasM says:

    Buy Method Laundry Detergent. It’s really great and comes in a very easy to use pump bottle so there is harder to use too much.

    • runchadrun says:

      You can also buy refill bags at Target which can save you a couple of bucks over buying a new bottle.

  28. krantcents says:

    My biggest change was using cold water. I saved roughly $8-10 per month in gas.

  29. awesome anna says:

    I’ve never used Tide in my life and my clothes are plenty clean. lol I can’t imagine how someone justifies spending that much money on laundry soap.

  30. Smultronstallet says:

    I use Purex Free & Clear. It’s a good product, with no heavy scent. Meijer (a Midwestern chain) frequently has the 66 load liquid bottles on sale for $2.99. I stock up whenever that sale comes around. Only $0.0453 per load! I don’t understand why anyone would use such expensive detergent when there are plenty of decent brands for far less money.

  31. Press1forDialTone says:

    To praise the style of another (well respected by me) poster:

    “I make my own coupons for Tide at home”

  32. adent1066 says:

    I don’t understand what’s going on regarding Tide. I’m starting to wonder whether criminals have discovered some other use for it (sort of like how they were using cold medicines to synthesize into drugs)

  33. chefboyardee says:

    My wife grew up on Tide and every other detergent we’ve tried in our adult life has made her break out in hives. Sucks.

  34. SmokeyBacon says:

    I use whatever free and clear is on sale. Unfortunately there are not too many options for that from what I have seen (though it is possible they just don’t carry a lot of brands where I shop). There are a ton of fragranced options but fre and clear are few and far between. Lucily there is usually both All and Tide, and All is a lot cheaper, so I go with that.

  35. snowmentality says:

    To use less detergent, I take a black Sharpie and mark the lowest line in the detergent cap with a nice thick black line. That way I can actually see where the line is when I’m pouring detergent.

    That amount of detergent works fine, even for extra-large loads. There’s absolutely no need to fill up the entire cap, ever.

    (Of course, I also use All Free & Clear, which I buy at Costco in the giant 120-load size for about $12. I don’t think I’ve ever bought Tide — it’s always crazy expensive compared to other options, even with coupons.)